Portrait from the "Men of Progress: Indiana", published 1899.
After highlighting several oddly named Hoosier politicians back in October of last year, today's write-up marks a return to Indiana and a man who had fleeting involvement in Hoosier politics, one Melchert Zearing Stannard of Clark County. A practicing attorney for four decades, Stannard's inclusion here on the site rests on his unsuccessful candidacy for Associate Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court in 1898 from the state's 2nd judicial district.
A resident of the Hoosier state for his entire life, Melchert Zearing Stannard's birth occurred in the Lawrence County town of Springville on June 30, 1856. The son of Edward Mather and Mary Jane Helmer Stannard, young Melchert inherited his unusual first name courtesy of his maternal grandfather, Melchert Helmer (1802-1876), a delegate to the Indiana Constitutional Convention of 1850 as well as a two-term state representative.
Left fatherless at a young age, Melchart Stannard acquired his early education at the Mitchell Normal School and at age sixteen began teaching school as a means of income. At age twenty he relocated to Jeffersonville, Indiana and shortly after his removal began the study of law in the offices of Howard and Read. Stannard was admitted to the Indiana bar in 1877. He continued the study of law at the University of Louisville (Kentucky) and after graduating in 1879 returned to Jeffersonville to join the firm of Howard and Read. Stannard married on January 27, 1885 to Flora Childs Read (1860-1918). The couple were wed for over thirty years and had two children, Lila Read (1888-1975) and Edward M. (born 1898) who died in infancy.
After the dissolution of the firm of Howard, Read and Stannard in 1888 Stannard operated a solo law practice and his reputation as a "sound and capable" attorney continued to gain him praise throughout Indiana law circles. The 1899 "Men of Progress, Indiana" edition gives high praise to his legal expertise, noting:
"His superb knowledge of the law, keen discernment and logical and forcible way of presenting a question to a court or jury, has won for him the reputation of a dangerous adversary which has extended far beyond the lines of his own locality."Stannard was retained as counsel for several important businesses, including the American Can and Foundry Company, the Ohio Falls Car Manufacturing Company and the Jeffersonville Water Supply Company. In addition to the preceding, his services were also retained by two railroad companies, those being the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway Co. and the Pittsburg Cincinnati Chicago and St. Louis Railway Co.
Described as an "ardent Democrat", Stannard was induced to enter political life just once, this occurring in 1898. In that year he received the nomination for Associate Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court from the Second judicial district, squaring off against Republican nominee Alexander Dowling (1836-1917), a former attorney for the city of New Albany. On election day it was Dowling who emerged victorious in the vote count, besting Stannard by nearly 20,00 votes. Despite his loss, Stannard's candidacy for supreme judge was remembered favorably in the 1899 "Men of Progress", which noted that he had "ran ahead of the state and local ticket in his own county and carried his judicial district by from three thousand to four thousand majority."
An electoral result of the Stannard-Dowling contest.
In the years following his one attempt at public office Stannard continued in his practice, and in 1907 began a partnership with the Jonas Howard, a son of his old law partner. In 1918 Stannard's wife of thirty-three years, Flora, died at age 58. He would survive her by slightly over a year, dying in November 1919 at age 63. Both were interred at the Walnut Ridge Cemetery in Jeffersonville following their deaths.